I was listening to this podcast back in April and one of the commentators mentioned the reading project she was embarking on which was to finally read the books that she’s only faked reading. I thought this was a brilliant idea, and decided I would make that my summer reading project. First book on the list was the Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald. It somehow was not part of my required reading in high school so it left a gaping hole in my literary knowledge. I finished it this past Saturday and loved it. I enjoyed it so much that I picked up a collection of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s letters. I’m fascinated by his marriage to Zelda and was eager to read some of his letters to her. I was delighted to find that the first letter was to his younger sister, with some wise brotherly advice like:
– (on general conversation) Always pay close attention to the man. Look at him in his eyes if possible. Never effect boredom. It’s terribly hard to do it gracefully. Learn to be worldly. Remember in all society nine girls out of ten marry for money and nine men out of ten are fools.
– (on expression) A good smile and one that could be assumed at will, is an absolute necessity. You smile on one side which is absolutely wrong. Get before a mirror and practise a smile and get a good one, a radiant smile ought to be in the facial vocabulary of every girl. Practise it – on girls, on the family. Practise doing it when you don’t feel happy and when you’re bored. When you’re embarrassed, when you’re at a disadvantage. That’s when you’ll have to use it in society and when you’ve practised a thing in calm, then only are you sure of it as a good weapon in tight places.
– (on dress) I’ll line up your good points against your bad physically: Good – Hair, good general size, good features; Bad – Teeth only fair, pale complexion, only fair figure, large hands and feet.
– General summing up: (1) dress scrupulously neatly and then forget your personal appearance. Every stocking should be pulled up to the last wrinkle (2) Don’t wear things like that fussy hat that aren’t becoming to you – At least buy no more. Take someone who knows with you- someone who really knows. (3) Conform to your type no matter what looks well in the store (4) Cultivate deliberate physical grace. You’ll never have it if you don’t. I’ll discuss dancing in a latter letter.
Wasn’t that great? Great authors are keen observers. I found it endearing that he would take the time to pen an instructional note to his little sis, even if it was totally cringe-worthy. If you’re interested the book of letters is:
Next on the reading list is either Swann’s Way by Marcel Proust or Middlemarch by George Eliot.